The Upbeat Generation has arrived and its conflict with the old ways, the old traditions and taboos is evident all around us. After 20 years of Depression-bred and war-nurtured conformity, and compulsive concern with security and the common man, the Uncommon Man has at last come back into his own, along with a renewed respect for the uncommon mind, the uncommon act and the uncommon accomplishment.
A great many Americans now recognize that the de-emphasis of both initiative and education along with our lack of growth in the arts and sciences cost us the position of undisputed world leadership we once took for granted. Another country, hardly as high as our belt buckle three decades ago, is now reaching for the stars ahead of us. We’ve learned a bitter lesson, but if we’ve learned it well, it may well have been worth it.
By subverting our faith in ourselves, both as individuals and as a nation, by shaking our faith in the superiority of the free enterprise system, we managed to bring the greatest country in the world to a near standstill. By again stressing many of the basic tenets upon which this nation was founded, we have begun forcefully to move ahead once more.
If any of us were ever in serious doubt about the relative merits of group-oriented, collectivist socialism or communism versus self-oriented, individual initiative, free enterprise capitalism, we’ve witnessed irrefutable evidence of the strengths and weaknesses of both over the last generation. Setting aside the social significance of a free society for the moment—and the fact that no government that places its emphasis on the importance of group good over individual good can long remain free—capitalism has proven itself the superior economic system in country after country since the war.
It is not because of any inherent flaw in American capitalism that Russia has been able to catch up to us in many areas over the past 20 years—quite the opposite: It is because this country drifted dangerously in the direction of socialism during the Thirties and Forties that we began to falter and fall behind. Several nations in postwar Europe have found a new economic strength through capitalism, and much of Western Europe is enjoying an unparalleled prosperity because of having taken the free enterprise system to the international level with the Common Market. America, on the other hand, has stifled her natural growth through initiative-inhibiting taxes and restrictive legislation regarding the roles of labor and management in business. Now there is a promise of change, however, as both political parties recognize that this country’s economic health is intimately tied to the profit an individual or a company can hope to turn, after taxes, for additional effort or for risk capital invested in a new product, a new idea or a new enterprise. Last fall Congress gave the President sweeping powers over restrictive import and export tariff, so that the U.S. might successfully compete with the Common Market; this year and next, we are promised major tax reforms and reductions aimed at putting more enterprise back in our free enterprise system.
Truly dramatic evidence of the relative strengths in the two economic systems can be seen in East and West Berlin today. The contrast between the two halves of this once whole city—one rebuilding since war’s end under a democratic free economy and the other under a totalitarian Communist regime—says more than any economic theorist or political philosopher ever could. And the Wall, with East Berliners risking death to scramble over and under it to West Berlin and freedom, says more about the social worth of the two systems than any words could, too.
Fidel Castro has all but destroyed the Cuban economy with his brand of Communist socialism. And while Red China falters and fails in its attempt to duplicate with communism what America achieved through capitalism, Japan has moved ahead to unprecedented wealth since the end of the Second World War by patterning its economy directly after the United States. As the limitations of communism become clearer, Russia has been subtly changing her own economic system, supplying capitalist incentives as required. But Russia remains a totalitarian state and suffers the inherent weakness of all dictatorships: No nation can enjoy the full benefits of a free economy and the free enterprise system, if the nation’s people are themselves not truly free. Thus freedom itself is the spark that a free competitive society requires to drive it at peak efficiency and that is why America can regain its position of world prominence and leadership if it never again loses sight, as a nation, of the fundamental faith in itself, belief in its uncommon citizens and in freedom and the free enterprise system that made it great in the beginning.
The entire world is presently benefiting from the competition between the U.S. and Russia in our “race for space,” each country spurred on by the accomplishments of the other. Without this international competitive enterprise, man might well be waiting another generation or more to reach the moon and begin his exploration of the stars. If the same competitive spirit were brought to the research of the world’s half-dozen most deadly diseases, the resultant money and man-hours expended would in all probability produce cures for all of them in our lifetime and the next generation could look forward to a life expectancy of 100 years and more. A properly controlled competitive society works with nations as well as individuals, supplying the maximum motivation and thus benefiting everyone in the society with the resulting maximum accomplishment or progress.
The mood is optimistic. In the Atomic Age, with the continuing threat of world conflict, no tomorrow can ever be a certainty, but certainty is a security the new generation does not require. There is, in its place, a new satisfaction in accomplishment—a new savoring of life and all that it offers. The possibility of imminent extinction has given life a new significance. Too often in the past, man has lived almost entirely for tomorrow—thereby living less, enjoying less and doing less. Many of the new generation are discovering that the ultimate satisfaction comes from living for both today and tomorrow.
What we have termed the Upbeat Generation (sharing the spirit of rebellion with that sliver of it called beat, but differing radically because of the far more positive, upbeat attitude about life and itself) bears little resemblance to the generation that preceded it. Yet some are still unaware of the change that has taken place and many do not realize the size of the gap that exists between two generations that followed one immediately upon the other. The great difference in feeling about Playboy and its editorial point of view is but one example of the gap: Playboy expresses itself in terms a great many members of the new generation understand, but that are incomprehensible to others only a single generation older.
The American Renaissance
In an introduction to a recent issue devoted to what they termed the “Take-Over Generation,” Life magazine said: “Coming hard over the horizon, just beginning to make his presence and his power felt, is a new breed of American. He is filled with purpose and he thinks on a scale that often frightens his elders…. In the big corporation, where the old desire for job security is giving way to a new insistence on job opportunity, the daring young idea man is finally starting to lay the Organization Man to rest.”
Science, both pure and applied, has accomplished more in the last dozen years than in the two dozen that preceded them. The same is true in architecture and design. In fine art, the U.S. had previously done little more than follow European trends, but in the Fifties and Sixties American painters set the pace and have maintained the lead: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and their compatriots are the creators of the most important and most influential work of any artists of our time. The description of Pollock by English art critic Bryan Robertson in his introduction to a book of Pollock’s paintings published in 1960 associates the artist with the rebel spirit he shared (until his death) with much of the new America: “For an entire generation Pollock has become a symbol of revolt against existing conventions in imagery and a touchstone in a commonly shared search for new methods to contain a new vision in painting. Apart from this, Pollock has emerged as the first American artist in history to influence European art…. The present work has as its mainspring the author’s conviction that Jackson Pollock [is] second only to Picasso in the hierarchy of 20th century art.”
Rebellion against the tried and not necessarily true has abounded everywhere. In jazz, America’s one original art form, traditional sounds have given way to experimentation in a variety of unexplored directions, from bop to third stream. In acting, classic styles have bowed to a new naturalism with Brando, et al., and something called The Method. In popular music, the moon-and-June syrup of Tin Pan Alley has been replaced by the earthy reality of folk music. The new spirit of rebellion has even shown itself in the growth of a new American humor—Mort Sahl, Mike and Elaine, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory and the rest of what Time called the New School of comedy have replaced tired jokes with social commentary and have made us laugh at our fancies and foibles: politics, sex, religion, racial prejudice—no cow remains sacred. True satire has returned to the American scene. And it can be argued that a nation’s real inner strength is revealed through its ability to laugh at itself.
Serious social change has been taking place also. The inequality of the races has received increasing attention from all Americans concerned with the rights of others as well as themselves. Politics—long an area of interest left almost exclusively to the politicians—is now a matter of continuing discussion, debate and active participation by youthful citizens of both the right and left. Nor are most Americans' interests and concerns any longer limited to the continental boundaries of this country. The knowledge that this is indeed one world has never had greater acceptance by the majority of Americans: We now recognize as never before in peacetime, that what happens in Cuba, India or Berlin is of paramount importance to us all and conversely, what happens in Mississippi is of grave importance in Africa and throughout Asia.
Corruption in high governmental places, the TV quiz scandal, disc jockey payola, police crime in Chicago and other major cities, the indictment of top business executives for price fixing and restraint of trade, the Billie Sol Estes affair are seen by some as evidence of a trend toward decadence in our society, but they represent just the opposite to us. In each case, the significant fact is that the crime or corruption was brought to light—no matter how high up and potentially protected the offenders—and in almost every instance, justified penalties were meted out. Moreover, corrective actions were usually taken to preclude similar lawlessness. In the case of the Chicago police, not only were the men involved prosecuted, but Mayor Daley ordered a sweeping cleanup of the entire force—and he got it. In times past, such a scandal would have been hushed up and things would have continued on as before. There will always be crime and corruption in the world, but recent public exposures suggest a moral rebirth in America rather than the reverse.
The way in which Americans rejected McCarthyism and subversives of the extreme right as well as those of the left in the early Fifties was a portent of the independent spirit rising up in this country and served notice that most Americans would not long submit to being herded about like so many gray flannel sheep. Hitler used a fear and hatred of the Jews to bind the German people together in a controllable mass. Similar attempts here immediately after the war, using the fear and hatred of American communism, were partially successful for a time (some neighbors actually did spy on neighbors, brothers turn in brothers, students intimidate teachers; there were loyalty oaths to sign, some books literally were burned and industry black lists cost a number of Americans their jobs), but the arrival of the new generation, coupled with those free minds of every generation that refuse to be intimidated and herded, cut short the demagogic dreams of power. A few neofascist and hate groups have persisted up to the present, using the fear of the omnipresent Communist menace and/or the hate of Negroes, Jews, Catholics, non-candy eaters (a logical minority for Welch’s John Birchers) or some other suitable group as their scapegoats. But the burgeoning independence and rebel individualism of the Upbeat Generation make it increasingly difficult for extremist groups of the right or left to gather any sizable portion of the population to itself. An American of the new generation may hate communism for its tyranny, but he is unwilling to submit to the tyranny of a professional hate cult in order to fight it, being aware that the best way to combat the ideology of totalitarian communism is not through some equally totalitarian concept or group, but through a strengthening of democracy and the free enterprise system.
American education today is receiving a much needed, if still not entirely satisfactory, shot in the arm. During the Depression we tended to de-emphasize education and intellectual pursuits (the uncommon mind was as apt to be derided as an “egghead” as to be admired), because the nation’s economic problems made higher education available to so very few. One of the best things to come out of World War II was the G.I. Bill offering, as it did to hundreds of thousands of young American men, the opportunity for a college education or training in a specialized profession or trade.
Erasing the color line in education will, in the future, permit American Negroes to receive a far better and fuller education than they could have hoped for previously. This will benefit both the individual Negroes and the nation, for the total brainpower of any country is one of its most valuable natural resources. Until now, the United States has permitted a sizable percentage of its potential brainpower to go partially undeveloped by not offering full educational opportunities to its colored citizens. This is rather like leaving a part of a rich mineral deposit in the ground when you know that it’s there and that if it was mined and processed it would be extremely valuable to the national economy and to the U.S. defense effort as well. Making sure that all American youth, regardless of race or economic position, receives the best and most complete education for which it is able to qualify makes sound economic sense for the nation and is, we feel, one of the obligations of our government.
At the grade school level, there has been considerable concern and debate over Johnny’s inability to read. Playboy shares this concern, for when Johnny becomes old enough to subscribe to our magazine, we would like to think he is enjoying the fine fiction and the thought-provoking articles and not just ogling the current Playmate of the Month. But whether the ability to more fully appreciate Playboy figures in the new American concern over schooling or not—and we rather suspect that it does not—there is a greater awareness of the importance of education today than at any previous time in our history.
We appear to be moving into an American renaissance—a period of growth and prosperity unequaled in the past. Art, science, philosophy, politics, education—all are broadening their horizons and man is meeting the challenges and the opportunities of his world with unparalleled determination, delight and derring-do. Nothing seems impossible and man has never been more alive and aware. Life is a bold adventure and the new American Renaissance Man seems destined to make the most of it.
Man’s new zest for living can be seen in his interest in a car that has style and speed, in his savoring the pleasures of the senses with good food and drink and stereo sound, in his involvement in the decor of his apartment and the cut of his clothes (the American male is the active participant in a minor fashion revolution that supplies still another example of the changing time: to the universal, gray flannel sameness of Ivy has been added the individual style and flair of Continental, with a new elegance and enough variety in its design to permit a re-emphasis of the individual within the clothes).
No conflict exists between the pleasure a modern American finds in material things and his struggle to discover a new scientific truth, or evolve a new philosophy, or create a work of art. The good life, the full life, encompasses all of these—and all of them satisfy and spur a man on to do more, see more, know more, experience more, accomplish more. This is the real meaning, the purpose, the point of life itself: the continuing, upward striving and searching for the ultimate truth and beauty.
The Sexual Revolution
America has come alive again. And with the social revolution has come a sexual revolution as well. Gone is much of the puritan prudishness and hypocrisy of the past. But far from being representatives of a moral decline, as some would like us to believe, we are in the process of acquiring a new moral maturity and honesty in which man’s body, mind and soul are in harmony rather than in conflict.
This revolution is nowhere more obvious than in the changing public taste in books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television and theater. A society’s media of communication offer an especially sensitive gauge to the changing manners and mores of any time, and in this regard the contrast between the present generation and the one just past is remarkable.
In the Thirties and Forties Hollywood movies were never allowed to show a man and a woman in bed together—not even if they were married in the picture—not even if they were married in real life. If a scene had to be played in a bedroom, the couple appeared in that blight upon marital bliss: twin beds. In the same period, if a woman were to have an illicit affair in a film (which meant any relationship not blessed by matrimony), the audience could be certain that before the final scene she would suffer the severest possible consequences. That some romances outside holy wedlock end happily or do not end at all would appear to be facts of life the movies of 20 and 30 years ago preferred to ignore. And the worst profanity heard in a film during more than a decade of picture making was Clark Gable’s parting shot, “Personally, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” to Scarlett O'Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind. GWTW was the only motion picture of the time that was allowed a single hell or damn (the line never failed to produce a titter from surprised audiences), and we tend to forget for how short a while such common expletives have been permitted in dramatic shows on television.
In 1938 an issue of Life magazine was banned in a number of communities in the United States, because it included a picture story depicting the birth of a baby. That was just 25 years ago. And it has been less than 10 since New York City censored the birth of a baby buffalo from one of Walt Disney’s award-winning wildlife features. Today Ben Casey delivers a baby on home TV and nobody even blinks.
A few short years ago the number of specific subjects that could not even be mentioned in movies included drug addiction, homosexuality, incest, nymphomania, necrophilia, abortion, masturbation and hand holding (we just slipped that last one in to see if you were paying attention). More recently, a number of these subjects (not including hand holding) have been the central themes of motion pictures and most all of them appear in interrelated combinations in films by Tennessee Williams.
If movies are badder than ever, books are even badder than that. Well, bolder, at any rate. The public has displayed a new willingness to accept the previously taboo in colloquial dialog (thus permitting James Jones' soldiers in his best-selling, prize-winning Army novel, From Here to Eternity, to use the same locutions real soldiers employ, even though this remarkable innovation prompted Life to waggle a warning finger in an editorial titled, “From Here to Obscenity”), in subject matter (Vladimir Nabokov’s best-selling, prize-winning tale of the 12-year-old nymphet, Lolita) and in the first U.S. printing of long-banned books (James Joyce’s Ulysses, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s two Tropics—all outlawed for more than a generation and by now all very nearly modern classics).
One of the first books after the war to become a best seller because of sex was a statistical survey by Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey and his associates of Indiana University. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, followed by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, proved that the public earnestly wanted to know more about sex, and the sham and secrecy that had for so long surrounded the subject finally began falling away. “The Kinsey Report” was the first extensive scientific study of sex practices in the U.S., and it unquestionably affected behavior even as it reported it. America’s sexual hypocrisy was out in the open—we had been preaching one thing and practicing another. The country’s purityrranical zealots, who had successfully sustained the image of sex as sin by keeping it in the shadows, suddenly found that someone had let the sunshine in. And in the bright light of day, sex didn’t seem so terrible to most of us.
In the mood of conformity that was still with us in the late Forties and early Fifties, various self-appointed civic and religious groups were extremely active in censorship. The very notion that one adult has the right to tell another what book he may or may not read and what movie he may or may not see is repugnant to most Americans, but we had been turned into a nation of sheep and there were few voices raised in protest. With the coming of the new generation, however, individuals began speaking out against such conformity and control over the minds of men.
The NODL (National Office of Decent Literature) prepares a monthly list of “disapproved” paperback books and magazines that is supposed to be a guide for Catholic youth, but the list was often used as a weapon of censorship instead, until various magazines and newspapers began to cry out against the practice.
In an editorial titled “The Harm Good People Do,” in its October 1956 issue, Harper’s Magazine stated: “A little band of Catholics is now conducting a shocking attack on the rights of their fellow citizens. They are engaged in an un-American activity which is as flagrant as anything the Communist party ever attempted—and which is, in fact, very similar to Communist tactics. They are harming their country, their Church, and the cause of freedom…. This group calls itself the National Office of Decent Literature…. Its main purpose is to make it impossible for anybody to buy books and other publications which it does not like. Among them are the works of some of the most distinguished authors now alive—for example, winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.”
Without intending to, a Post of the Catholic War Veterans in Hartford, Connecticut underlined the similarity between their tactics and those of the Communists in a letter to book dealers in their community aiming to suppress, through the threat of boycott, certain publications they considered undesirable. The letter was accompanied by the NODL list of “disapproved” publications and it quoted the Chinese Communists who had been conducting a campaign of their own against “disapproved” literature: “‘These books and pictures seriously harm those workers who by constantly looking at them can easily become degenerate in their thinking,’ cautions the Peking Worker’s Daily as quoted by Newsweek magazine, January 23, 1956. We have to hand it to the Communists…who have launched a nationwide campaign against pornographic trash…. Should not this example provoke a similar literary cleanup in our land where the morality of our actions is gauged by service to God and not to an atheistic state?”
The NODL black list, which has included books by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, George Orwell, John O'Hara, Emile Zola, Arthur Koestler and Joyce Cary, does not represent the attitude of all Catholics, of course, and the list has been used by a number of non-Catholic censorship groups as well.
Father John Courtney Murray, S.J., professor of moral theology at Woodstock College, Maryland, warned against such practices, and in an address on “Literature and Censorship” said, in part: “No minority group has the right to impose its own religious or moral views on other groups, through the use of methods of force, coercion or violence.”
Dean Joseph O'Meara of the Notre Dame Law School expressed it like this: “Unfortunately many sincere people do not comprehend the genius of our democracy…such people would deny free speech to those with whom they are in fundamental disagreement…. They would establish a party line in America—their party line, of course. This is an alien concept, a totalitarian concept; it is not consonant with the American tradition; it is antidemocratic; it is, in short, subversive and it should be recognized for what it is.”
And another eminent Catholic, President John F. Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, summed up the matter in these prophetic words: “The lock on the door of the legislature, the parliament or the assembly hall, by order of the King, the Commissar or the Führer, has historically been followed or preceded by a lock on the door of the printer’s, the publisher’s, or the bookseller’s.”
Censors wither before such criticism and the NODL has since gone back to its intended function: issuing a list by Catholics for their fellow Catholics to consult as a guide to reading—if they wish.
A concern for the country’s children has often been used as an excuse for censorship in the past—certain words, ideas, pictures, stories or subjects might have a negative effect upon a young, impressionable mind—might turn our children into a community of juvenile delinquents—or so the thinking went. And there was no less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover supplying suitable statements about the multimillion-dollar pornography business in the U.S. and its effect upon the nation’s youth. Unfortunately, J. Edgar has always been something of a nut on the subject of sex, and while his words carry the impact of his important position as head of the FBI, he is not an expert on the subject—is not, in fact, even acquainted with some of the most fundamental research in the area. Hoover’s statements notwithstanding, there is no multimillion-dollar pornography business in the U.S. Pornography has never become a well-organized national or even regional operation simply because, unlike gambling and dope, there simply isn’t enough profit in it to make it worthwhile. Moreover, experts in the field of human behavior have never been able to find any causal relationship between reading habits and delinquency and do not believe that any exists—except that delinquents are apt to read fewer books and magazines of all kinds than their nondelinquent brothers. In the most thorough studies of crime, delinquency and their causes, reading habits have not even been included as a possible factor, because of the recognition by experts that no correlation exists. But some citizens like to believe statements like Hoover’s, because they take part of the blame off the real, primary culprit—the home environment, for which the citizen himself is responsible. And such statements have a similar effect on the other side, too—taking attention away from the embarrassment of the nation’s thriving crime syndicate that the FBI seems unable to do anything effective about, as it grows bigger and more prosperous year after year.
The implied hurt that a particular movie or article, piece of fiction or photograph might do to children wields a far greater power over the nation’s publishers, the film industry, radio and television than one might at first suppose. For long before there is any question of censorship, the publisher or producer must himself determine what goes into his product and the pressure to make it “suitable for children” or “entertainment for the entire family” is a strong one. And the net effect of that, of course, is a society in which much of our popular culture and communication is strained to a thinness (all meat removed and sweetener added) pleasant to the taste and easily digested by children. Just what effect a society geared to the sophistication level of a ten-year-old is apt to have on its adults is another matter entirely. Instead of raising children in an adult world, with adult tastes, interests and opinions prevailing, we prefer to live much of our lives in a make-believe children’s world. Without attempting to evaluate the results this is certain to produce in society as a whole over any period of time, it can be reasonably argued that it is also a lousy way to bring up kids and prepare them for taking their place in the world as mature adults.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this question recently, striking down a Michigan statute as unconstitutional, because it used as its rationalization for state censorship the theory that it was thereby protecting its youth. The Supreme Court held that it is impossible to justify censorship in the adult community by referring to what may or may not be suitable for children without soon creating a community suitable for children only. Or, more probably, for no one at all.
The mind of the censor is often magnificent in its machinations and incredible in its incomprehensibility. Some examples of censorship would be amusing in the extreme, if fundamental rights and freedoms were not involved—as when, a short time ago, one U.S. community contemplated banning the books of Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, from their children’s library, because Tarzan and Jane had never been joined in holy wedlock and thus must be living in sin in their jungle home. (We’d always assumed, as a youngster, that they kept things straight by relying upon the honor system. In the movie adventures, starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, you may recall that “Boy” came from heaven only in the sense that he was the sole survivor of an airplane crash and was adopted into the Tarzan family. It never occurred to us in our innocent youth that Tarzan and Jane were anything more than good friends. It was Cheetah, the chimp, that we were always a mite suspicious of. He always seemed to be hanging around the tree house, when Tarzan was off on one of his vine-swinging excursions.)
The would-be censor in any community is rarely the best informed and best qualified for such a job, and this is probably because real knowledge of a subject and an interest in suppressing it do not often go hand in hand. Even if the censor had the necessary insight, it would not justify the forcing of his own particular tastes and interests onto the rest of society, but most often it is actually a matter of dragging down the tastes and interests of the community to a decidedly lower level. Far more energy is expended, for example, in attempts to suppress appeals to the normally heterosexual than to the somewhat more subtle offerings to sadism, masochism, the homosexual and fetishism. Few censors comprehend the labyrinthian twistings and turnings that suppressed or perverted sexuality may take in the human animal.
The censor may be driven by any of several motivations: he may anticipate some personal or political gain for his involvement in censorship; he may enjoy the sense of power achieved through a control over what others can do and say; he may be a quite sincere, if misguided, citizen who believes that the world would be a better place if only the rest of the community held the same values and beliefs he holds; or he may be one of those whose dedication to the suppression of certain aspects of our society is itself a symptom of subconscious sexual needs and guilt feelings.
The U.S. Post Office has built a reputation in times past as a watchdog of public morality. Not because it was qualified for such a task and certainly not because it had any legal right to be involved, but simply because some members of the postal authority wanted to use that authority to control the free communication of ideas. There have always been ample laws for the prosecution of illegal use of the mails, but it is a peculiar fact that censors—whether from government or some civic or religious group—rarely find due process of law satisfactory to their needs. The censor’s methods are almost always illegal.
In the most famous case involving censorship and the Post Office, an attempt was made to deny second-class mailing privileges to Esquire magazine in the mid-Forties. The publication defended itself, finally winning a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court. In the landmark determination written by Judge Thurman Arnold, of the U.S. Court of Appeals, the postal authorities were told that their job was to deliver the mails, not censor them. Judge Arnold finished his decision as follows: “We intend no criticism of counsel for the Post Office. They were faced with an impossible task. They undertook it with sincerity. But their very sincerity makes the record useful as a memorial to commemorate the utter confusion and lack of intelligible standards which can never be escaped when that task is attempted. We believe that the Post Office officials should experience a feeling of relief if they are limited to the more prosaic function of seeing to it that ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed round.’”
Incredibly, even after that decision, the Post Office continued its quite illegal activities in censorship right up until two years ago, when the new administration brought in a fresh Postmaster General who, unlike his predecessors, apparently feels that delivering the mails inexpensively and well is quite enough of a task for his department. Unfortunately, though they won their case unanimously in the highest court in the land (at a cost of over $1 million), Esquire was badly frightened by the experience (if they had lost their second-class mailing privileges, they would have been put out of business) and the robust quality of the magazine’s earlier issues was never to be seen again. Playboy locked horns with the Post Office twice in its first years of publication and thoroughly trounced them in the courts on both occasions. We’ve never been bothered since, nor have any threats or attempts at coercion from any quarter ever influenced our own editorial judgment.
Americans were so generally embarrassed by sex in the early part of this century that sex statutes still standing in some of our states do not even define the behavior or activity they prohibit. The legislators were seemingly able to spell out fornication and/or adultery with only an occasional blush, but when they moved into the slightly more exotic areas of fellatio, cunnilingus and pederasty, it appears that some of them broke into a cold sweat and were just too intimidated by the entire subject to explain what offenses the laws were intended to cover. Thus, in place of the specific, the state statutes prohibit “vile and contemptible crimes against nature.”
Every state in the Union has some laws covering the sexual activity of its citizens, and it is a further indication of our changing mores that almost none of them, except those concerned with minors, acts of violence and prostitution, are regularly enforced. Dr. Kinsey and his associates have estimated that if all the sex laws in the United States were fully and successfully enforced, the majority of our adult population—male and female—would be in prison. Since they go unenforced for the most part, it would seem that we are finally reaching that level of maturity where we recognize that a man’s morality, like his religion, is a personal affair best left to his own conscience. Some of our state laws are now being rewritten to reflect this enlightened attitude.
Freud and Kinsey must be given a maximum amount of credit for the awakening of the past few years—Freud for setting the stage and Kinsey for trotting out the players. It is surprising that no popular philosopher stepped forward to shape and polish our new understanding of ourselves and form a consistent cohesive constant for living—even as rugged individualism found its Ayn Rand and Little Orphan Annie—but perhaps that lack partially explains Playboy’s phenomenal impact and popularity. By default, as it were, and quite without planning, Playboy has become a voice for the new generation, reflecting a new view of contemporary man and the world in which he lives.
This is what the writers and critics, quoted earlier in this editorial statement, mean when they suggested that Playboy has become more than simply a magazine—that it is, to use of their own terms: “a way of life”…“a movement”…“more than just a handbook for the young-man-about-town: It’s a sort of Bible.”
If there is any truth in this, and we don’t deny that there may be, it has not been as a result of conscious calculation. Playboy’s attitude and point of view has always been an editorial expression of the things in which we personally believe. If Playboy’s voice is one to which this particular, most remarkable generation responds, it is perhaps because most other publications (along with other media of communications in America today) are still in the hands of—or at least under the ultimate control of—the older generation, whereas we ourself are a generation younger and think and feel naturally the same things others of our generation think and feel. The total of these thoughts and feelings is what makes up The Playboy Philosophy.